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Roald Dahl’s poem “Television” is a poem critiquing the object which has made not only the kids but everyone addicted to it. The poet uses a lot imagery to describe it as television is concerned with lots of wonderful and terrible images and must be interesting enough to watch the audience’s attention. He portrays the dangerous threat which a television poses for everyone especially the kids and pleads the parents to not put their kids in front of the “idiot box.”
The most important thing we've learned, So far as children are concerned, Is never, NEVER, NEVER let Them near your television set -- Or better still, just don't install The idiotic thing at all. In almost every house we've been, We've watched them gaping at the screen.
The poet addresses the poem in a third person perspective as if trying to cajole the readers along with him. He says outright that the children should not be allowed anywhere near your television set. The speaker then goes to describe the reasons why it’s harmful as the kids do nothing but gape at the screen. He points this out as the first negative impact upon the kids from the television.
They loll and slop and lounge about, And stare until their eyes pop out. (Last week in someone's place we saw A dozen eyeballs on the floor.) They sit and stare and stare and sit Until they're hypnotised by it, Until they're absolutely drunk With all that shocking ghastly junk.
The speaker continues listing his reasons as why one should avoid buying a television. He says the children do nothing but lounge about in front of the TV until their eyes pop out. Their intelligence and thinking capabilities are drained and they get addicted to the TV and might as well not have eyes if all they do is watch TV. He says that the kids get intoxicated on the ghastly junk of television shows instead of being an actual drunk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still, They don't climb out the window sill, They never fight or kick or punch, They leave you free to cook the lunch And wash the dishes in the sink -- But did you ever stop to think, To wonder just exactly what This does to your beloved tot?
In this part, the speaker develops an understanding tone when he says that he knows the reason why the parents don’t chide their children when they are attached to their TV. It’s not because they are being bad parents but because the TV keeps them still. As long as the kids are watching TV, the parents needn’t worry about anything and can go ahead with their work. The TV ensures the kids not climbing out the window sill or up-to any mischief. The poet acknowledges the logic behind parent’s reasoning but still questions them whether it is worth it after all the bad things a TV does to their child.
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD! IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD! IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND! IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND! HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE! HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE! HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!
This part of the poem is in all capitals as if the poet tries to urge the parents to listen to all the harm a TV does to their kids. He lists by saying how the child’s brain is transformed to a CHEESE and that they are unable to think as they observe what they see from the TV. The child no longer questions what is right or wrong but only digests whatever is injected into their brain through the TV.
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say, 'But if we take the set away, What shall we do to entertain Our darling children? Please explain!' We'll answer this by asking you, 'What used the darling ones to do? 'How used they keep themselves contented Before this monster was invented?' Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
The speaker calms down, as he no longer uses capitals to express his anger, but tries to understand the viewpoint of the parents. He expresses the parents’ concern as if they are saying what might they do if they take away the TV. The parents ask what shall be the solution to entertain our darling children? The speaker calmly puts forth a solution that they will do whatever the kids used to do before this monster meaning the television is invented. He says that once was a time when there were no TVs and kids were also raised during that time and that way should be implemented now instead of putting the kids in front of the television.
We'll say it very loud and slow: THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ, AND READ and READ, and then proceed To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks! One half their lives was reading books! The nursery shelves held books galore! Books cluttered up the nursery floor! And in the bedroom, by the bed, More books were waiting to be read!
The speaker’s frustration grows once again as in this part, he is seen pointing his argument in capitals. In response to the parents, he emphasizes on the fact that they used to read books. Ellipses used while saying that shows the speaker’s attempt to speak without getting angry. He says the kids, before the invent of the television, used to read and read which nowadays no one bothers to do. He is also frustrated as how out of touch the parents have become along with their kids.
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales And treasure isles, and distant shores Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars, And pirates wearing purple pants, And sailing ships and elephants, And cannibals crouching 'round the pot, Stirring away at something hot.
The poet then goes on to describe the types of books the kids used to read one time. He tries to write in a manner which when read by children will evoke their interest to pick up a book and delve into the world. The speaker talks about the wondrous tales of dragons, gypsies, queens and whales and how much better these worlds are compared to what is shown in the TV.
(It smells so good, what can it be? Good gracious, it's Penelope.) The younger ones had Beatrix Potter With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter, And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and- Just How The Camel Got His Hump, And How the Monkey Lost His Rump, And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul, There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole- Oh, books, what books they used to know, Those children living long ago!
The speaker then interjects himself as a part of the story and bring up many interesting names which were once loved by the younger ones. He talks about Rudyard Kipling’s story “How the Camel got His Hump” to Beatrix Potter’s stories of Peter Rabbit. He beckons the children by saying there are infinite number of books waiting for them to discover a whole new imaginative world.
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books, Ignoring all the dirty looks, The screams and yells, the bites and kicks, And children hitting you with sticks- Fear not, because we promise you That, in about a week or two Of having nothing else to do, They'll now begin to feel the need Of having something to read.
The speaker once brings back his initial plea by telling the parents to please throw away their TV set. He says initially it will be difficult but they must look past the bites and kicks from the children because eventually they will become bore and seek the pleasures of reading. A parent should always want the best for their child and this is the only way to ensure the best.
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy! You watch the slowly growing joy That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen They'll wonder what they'd ever seen In that ridiculous machine, That nauseating, foul, unclean, Repulsive television screen! And later, each and every kid Will love you more for what you did.
The speaker ends the poem on a note of optimism by saying that the day will come when the kids will eventually start reading books. The children will no longer seek the comforts of a TV but lounge in the fantasy world of books. Though this process might take time and the parents might get unhappy or angry remarks from their children but eventually they will love you more for what you did.”
Dahl uphold the virtues and pleasures of reading and being engrossed in book and at the same time critiques the invention of the television, very correctly known as the “idiot box.” He urges the parents to switch their kids from the TV to books as otherwise the young generation will be greatly harmed.